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Hurricane Katrina

Disaster Preparedness

Project: Hurricane Katrina
Open-Content project managed by mtuck

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FEMA’s headquarters staff is forced to cancel disaster training exercises because of budget cuts, according to 16-year FEMA staff member Pleasant Mann. [Independent Weekly, 9/22/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

Consistent with its strategy to outsource disaster management functions (see Summer 2004), FEMA solicits bids for a contract to develop a hurricane disaster management plan for Southeastern Louisiana. FEMA’s “Scope of Work” for the contract demonstrates that it is acutely aware of the region’s vulnerability to hurricanes, and of the inadequacy of current plans to manage a major hurricane effectively. According to the document, FEMA and the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness “believe that the gravity of the situation calls for an extraordinary level of advance planning to improve government readiness to respond effectively to such an event.” FEMA describes the catastrophe that will result when a hurricane strikes Southeastern Louisiana. For example, FEMA writes that “the emergency management community has long feared the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster” that would cause “unprecedented levels of damage, casualties, dislocation, and disruption that would have nationwide consequences and jeopardize national security.” It cites “various hurricane studies” predicting that “a slow-moving Category 3 or almost any Category 4 or 5 hurricane approaching Southeast Louisiana from the south could severely damage the heavily populated southeast portion of the state creating a catastrophe with which the State would not be able to cope without massive help from neighboring states and the Federal Government.” FEMA also expressly recognizes that “existing plans, policies, procedures and resources” are inadequate to effectively manage such a “mega-disaster.” The work specified in the contract, awarded to Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) in early June (see June 3, 2004), is to be performed in three stages. During Stage I, scheduled for completion between May 19 and September 30, 2004, IEM will conduct a simulation exercise featuring a “catastrophic hurricane striking southeastern Louisiana” for local, state, and FEMA emergency officials. (FEMA will pay IEM $518,284 for this stage (see July 19-23, 2004)) IEM completes this stage when it conducts the “Hurricane Pam” exercise in July 2004 (see July 19-23, 2004). During Stage 2, IEM will develop a “full catastrophic hurricane disaster plan.” FEMA allocates $199,969 for this stage, which is to be completed between September 23, 2004 and September 30, 2005 (see September 23, 2004). The status of Stage 2 is currently unclear. [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file; US Congress, 9/9/2005] IEM apparently provides FEMA with a draft document titled “Southeast Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane Functional Plan,” in August 2004. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 8/6/2004 pdf file] The Times-Picayune will identify a later 109-page draft, dated September 20, 2004 [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] [Times-Picayune, 9/9/2005] , and the Chicago Tribune will report that as Hurricane Katrina bears down on Louisiana during the evening of August 28, 2005, emergency officials are working from a functional plan, based on the 2004 Hurricane Pam exercise, that is only a few months old. The third stage relates to earthquake planning for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) in the Central United States. [US Congress, 9/9/2005; Chicago Tribune, 9/11/2005] The Scope of Work specifies that the contractor must plan for the following conditions:
bullet “Over one million people would evacuate from New Orleans. Evacuees would crowd shelters throughout Louisiana and adjacent states.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hurricane surge would block highways and trap 300,000 to 350,000 persons in flooded areas. Storm surge of over 18 feet would overflow flood-protection levees on the Lake Pontchartrain side of New Orleans. Storm surge combined with heavy rain could leave much of New Orleans under 14 to 17 feet of water. More than 200 square miles of urban areas would be flooded.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “It could take weeks to ‘de-water’ (drain) New Orleans: Inundated pumping stations and damaged pump motors would be inoperable. Flood-protection levees would prevent drainage of floodwater. Breaching the levees would be a complicated and politically sensitive problem: The Corps of Engineers may have to use barges or helicopters to haul earthmoving equipment to open several hundred feet of levee.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Rescue operations would be difficult because much of the area would be reachable only by helicopters and boats.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Hospitals would be overcrowded with special-needs patients. Backup generators would run out of fuel or fail before patients could be moved elsewhere.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “The New Orleans area would be without electric power, food, potable water, medicine, or transportation for an extended time period.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Damaged chemical plants and industries could spill hazardous materials.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Standing water and disease could threaten public health.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “There would be severe economic repercussions for the state and region.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]
bullet “Outside responders and resources, including the Federal response personnel and materials, would have difficulty entering and working in the affected area.” [Department of Homeland Security, 2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Flood Risk, Organization Capacity, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Public Safety Risk, Response Level, Federal: FEMA, Evacuation, Response, Shelter, Before Katrina, Disaster Preparedness

A FEMA document lists 222 upcoming FEMA and homeland security exercises designed to prepare federal response personnel for national emergencies. Only two involve hurricanes. “And even in both of those cases, they’re dealing with what would happen if there were a terrorist attack associated with a hurricane event,” reports NBC News analyst William Arkin. [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency

Category Tags: Resource Allocation, FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Before Katrina

FEMA sponsors a 5-day exercise rehearsing for a mock storm, named “Pam,” that destroys over half a million buildings in New Orleans and forces the evacuation of a million residents. The drill is conducted by Innovative Emergency Management (IEM). [Associated Press, 7/24/2004; Times-Picayune, 7/24/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] It is attended by about 250 emergency officials and involves more than 40 federal, state, and local agencies, as well as volunteer organizations. As part of the scenario, about 200,000 people fail to heed evacuation orders. Pam slams directly into New Orleans bringing 120 mph winds, 20 inches of rain, 14 tornadoes, and a massive storm surge that overtops levees flooding the city with 20 feet of water containing a toxic mix of corpses, chemicals, and human waste. Eighty percent of the city’s buildings are damaged. Survivors crawl to the rooftops to wait for help, but rescue workers are impeded by impassable roads. [Federal Emergency Management Agency, 7/23/2004; Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005; New York Times, 9/1/2005; MSNBC, 9/2/2005; Associated Press, 9/9/2005] The flooding results in a massive number of casualties and leaves large portions of southeast Louisiana uninhabitable for more than a year. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] At the conclusion of the exercise, Ron Castleman, regional director for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, states: “We made great progress this week in our preparedness efforts. Disaster response teams developed action plans in critical areas such as search and rescue, medical care, sheltering, temporary housing, school restoration and debris management. These plans are essential for quick response to a hurricane but will also help in other emergencies.” [Reuters, 9/2/2005] As a result of the exercise, officials come to realize how difficult it will be to evacuate the city’s population in the event of a real hurricane. They expect that only a third of the population will be able leave before the storm hits, in part due to the fact that up to 100,000 residents live in households without a car. When asked how many people might die in such a storm, FEMA spokesman David Passey hesitates before stating, “We would see casualties not seen in the United States in the last century.” [Times-Picayune, 7/20/2004] In December 2004, a 412-page draft report summarizing the exercise will be completed with detailed predictions of what the government should expect in the event that a major hurricane strikes New Orleans.
Predictions - Flood waters would surge over levees, creating “a catastrophic mass casualty/mass evacuation” and leaving drainage pumps crippled for up to six months. “It will take over one year to re-enter areas most heavily impacted,” the report predicts. More than 600,000 houses and 6,000 businesses would be affected, and more than two-thirds of them would be destroyed. Almost a quarter-million children would have no school. “All 40 medical facilities in the impacted area [would be] isolated and useless.” Casualties would be staggering: 61,290 deaths, 187,862 injured, and 196,395 ill. A half million people would be made homeless by the storm. Storm “refugees” would be housed at college campuses, military barracks, hotels, travel trailers, recreational vehicles, private homes, cottages, churches, Boy Scout camps, and cruise ships. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Recommendations - “Federal support must be provided in a timely manner to save lives, prevent human suffering and mitigate severe damage. This may require mobilizing and deploying assets before they are requested via normal (National Response Plan) protocols.” [Associated Press, 9/9/2005]
Top officials briefed - Ivor van Heerden, the Louisiana State University hurricane researcher who ran the exercise, reports that a “White House staffer was briefed on the exercise,” and thus, “there is now a far greater awareness in the federal government about the consequences of storm surges.” [Louisiana State University, 2005] After the Hurricane Katrina Disaster, van Heerden will recall in an interview with MSNBC that the federal government didn’t take the exercise seriously. “Those FEMA officials wouldn’t listen to me. Those Corps of Engineers people giggled in the back of the room when we tried to present information.” When Heerden recommended that tent cities be prepared for displaced residents, “their response… was: ‘Americans don’t live in tents’ and that was about it.” [MSNBC, 9/2/2005]
Follow-up - Another exercise is scheduled the following year, but it’s cancelled when its funding is cut (see 2005).

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Ivor Van Heerden, Ron Castleman

Category Tags: Disaster Preparedness, Federal: FEMA, Louisiana: State, Louisiana: NOLA, Louisiana: SELA, Private Sector, Outsourcing, Flood Risk, Environmental Risk, Evacuation Problem, Sheltering, Before Katrina

The Department of Homeland Security issues a task order for Innovative Emergency Management, Inc. (IEM) to “complete the development of the SE Louisiana Catastrophic Hurricane plan.” IEM is to receive $199,969 for the work. [US Congress, 9/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Homeland Security, Innovative Emergency Management

Category Tags: Outsourcing, Federal, Private Sector, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Shelter, Response

Funding is cut for a FEMA disaster exercise meant to prepare government agencies for a major hurricane in New Orleans. The exercise, a follow-up to the Hurricane “Pam” exercise that was conducted the prior year (see July 19-23, 2004), was to develop a plan to fix such unresolved problems as evacuating sick and injured people from the Superdome and housing tens of thousands of displaced residents. [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005] “Money was not available to do the follow-up,” Michael Brown, director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will later say in an interview with the Associated Press. [Associated Press, 9/9/2005] After the disastrous Hurricane Katrina, Eric Tolbert, FEMA’s former disaster response chief, will tell Knight Ridder Newspapers: “A lot of good was done, but it just wasn’t finished. I don’t know if it would have saved more lives. It would have made the response faster. You might say it would have saved lives.” [Knight Ridder, 9/1/2005]

Entity Tags: Federal Emergency Management Agency, Eric Tolbert, Michael D. Brown

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Resource Allocation, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Evacuation Problem, Before Katrina

The Bush administration’s fiscal year 2006 budget request includes a six percent reduction in funding for Emergency Management Performance Grants. The cut would reduce the $180 million appropriated by Congress in 2005 to $170 million in 2006. “The grants are the lifeblood for local programs and, in some cases, it’s the difference between having a program in a county and not,” says Dewayne West, the director of Emergency Services for Johnston County, North Carolina, and president of the International Association of Emergency Managers. “It’s awfully difficult. More money is needed.” The White House however insists it is unfair to say Bush’s budget for the performance grants are a “cut,” because it was Congress, not the White House, that had increased the program’s budget in 2005 to $180 million. [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush, Dewayne West

Category Tags: Disaster Mitigation, Disaster Preparedness, Federal, Resource Allocation, Before Katrina

As part of the program, “Preparing for the Big One,” aimed at ensuring that none of New Orleans residents are left behind during a mandatory hurricane evacuation, the city contracts Total Community Action, a community faith-based network, to produce 70,000 30-minute DVDs. The DVD is meant to serve as a guide for the city’s poorest residents, many of whom do not own cars and live in the city’s lowest, most flood-prone, areas. At one point during the video, Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, warns, “Don’t wait for the city, don’t wait for the state, don’t wait for the Red Cross.” He tells the viewers, “It’s your personal responsibility” to escape before a hurricane. Other guests appearing on the video—including Mayor Ray Nagin, local Red Cross Executive Director Kay Wilkins and City Council President Oliver Thomas—reiterate the same message. “You’re responsible for your safety, and you should be responsible for the person next to you,” Wilkins says. “If you have some room to get that person out of town, the Red Cross will have a space for that person outside the area. We can help you.… But we don’t have the transportation.” The Los Angeles Times says that one of the video’s central message is that those without cars would not be able to rely on the city to evacuate them and that they would need to devise their own evacuation strategies. The video suggests that residents without cars should prearrange rides with other residents who do have cars. “Everybody needs to have their own plans,” New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin says on the video. “Check with your neighbors, check with your relatives.” Nagin also warns that public schools are no longer considered safe shelters. Other parts of the program provide advice on how to clear storm drains, pack an evacuation kit and medical supplies, and keep pets safe. [Times-Picayune, 7/24/2005; Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Ray Nagin, Preparing for the Big One, Total Community Action, Marshall Truehill, American Red Cross

Category Tags: Evacuation, Federal, Disaster Preparedness, NGOs, Louisiana: NOLA, Before Katrina

Michael Chertoff, head of the Department of Homeland Security, unveils a massive restructuring plan for the agency. One of the changes envisioned by the plan, dubbed the “second-stage review,” would be to transfer the function of preparedness planning from FEMA to “a strengthened department preparedness directorate.” [Washington Post, 7/13/2005] Chertoff further explains that he plans “to take out of FEMA a couple of elements that were really not related to its core missions, that were generally focused on the issue of preparedness in a way that I think was frankly more of a distraction to FEMA than an enhancement to FEMA.” The Wall Street Journal notes this“would cement FEMA’s reduced role” and “[strip] away longstanding functions such as helping communities build houses outside flood zones.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005]

Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, Federal Emergency Management Agency, US Department of Homeland Security

Category Tags: Federal, Federal: FEMA, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA Restructuring, Before Katrina

In a letter to Senators Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the leaders of a key Senate committee that oversees the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), a group of state emergency directors, denounces a proposal (see July 13, 2005) to transfer preparedness functions from FEMA to a new preparedness directorate elsewhere in DHS. The NEMA letter argues that the move would disconnect disaster planning staff, grants, and programs from the state, local, and federal agencies that are supposed to respond. “It would have an extremely negative impact on the people of this nation.… Any unnecessary separation of these functions will result in a disjointed response and adversely impact the effectiveness of departmental operations.” David Liebersbach, president of NEMA and director of the Alaska Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, says he believes that the motive behind the proposal relates to terrorism prevention efforts, which are very different than the types of efforts required to mitigate and manage natural disasters. “Losing [the] natural hazards emphasis for FEMA is getting to be quite a concern,” he says. “Prior to FEMA, the very programs that became FEMA were fragmented and were very difficult for states to interface with. Now you start taking pieces out.” [Ledger (Lakeland, FL), 8/21/2005; Wall Street Journal, 9/6/2005; Reuters, 9/17/2005] Now there is a “total lack of focus on natural-hazards preparedness,” he says. “[The emphasis on terrorism] indicates that FEMA’s long-standing mission of preparedness for all types of disasters has been forgotten at DHS.” [Reuters, 9/17/2005]

Entity Tags: National Emergency Management Association, David Liebersbach

Category Tags: FEMA Restructuring, Disaster Preparedness, Federal, Federal: FEMA, Organization Capacity, Before Katrina

Rev. Marshall Truehill, who heads Total Community Action, a faith-based organization heading a program to ensure that New Orleans poorest residents can safely evacuate the city, appears on the local ABC-TV affiliate station in a taped segment to inform viewers that a DVD (see (Summer 2005)) would soon be available providing hurricane evacuation tips. The DVDs are scheduled to be distributed some time in September. [Los Angeles Times, 9/13/2005]

Entity Tags: Marshall Truehill

Category Tags: NGOs, Disaster Preparedness, Evacuation, Before Katrina

Ordering 

Time period


Categories

Period

Before Katrina (140)Pre-Impact Katrina (192)During Katrina (76)Immediate Katrina Aftermath (19)After Katrina (3)

Organization

Federal (138)Federal: FEMA (64)Louisiana: State (72)Louisiana: NOLA (46)Louisiana: SELA (42)Mississippi: State (4)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)Florida: State (0)States: Other States (0)Private Sector (19)Academia/Professional (9)Media (27)NGOs (17)General Public (9)

Knowledge

Flood Risk (28)Evacuation Problem (22)Public Safety Risk (3)Environmental Risk (5)Organization Capacity (10)Levee Breach/Flooding (58)Sheltering (1)Response Level (1)Advisories (81)Increased Chance of Hurricane (1)

Disaster Management Legislation Relevant to Katrina

Legislation (3)

Emergency Preparedness/Response Plans

Evacuation (13)Shelter (4)Response (7)Recovery (1)

Policies that Affected Intensity of Katrina Impact

Environmental Policies/Programs (16)Land Development (3)Flood Control Programs (23)Disaster Mitigation (12)Disaster Preparedness (11)Resource Allocation (29)FEMA Restructuring (16)Outsourcing (5)Political Patronage (9)Canvassing (0)

Progress and Impact Hurricane Katrina

Florida (3)Louisiana: State (2)Louisiana: NOLA (20)Louisiana: SELA (18)Mississippi: Local (0)Mississippi: State (0)Mississippi: Biloxi (0)Mississippi: Gulfport (0)Mississippi: Other Local (0)Alabama: State (0)

Execution of Emergency Plans

Evacuation (22)Sheltering (2)Emergency Response (120)Other States' Assistance (0)

Response in Wake of Katrina Disaster

Response to Evacuation Execution (0)Response to Emergency Response (1)Investigations (0)

Recovery from Katrina

Infrastructure (bridges; roads) (0)Governmental Services (water, electricity, etc) (0)Industry (oil industry, etc.) (0)citizenship (0)

Statements

Policies (5)Warnings (15)Plans (0)Mitigation (4)Katrina (6)Execution of Emergency Plans (25)Response (0)Recovery (0)

Specific Cases and Issues

Coastal Wetlands (27)

Other

Other (4)
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